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2011 Poinsettia Bowl Preview

TCU Horned Frogs vs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

It’s one of the very unfortunate elements of the larger bowl system, not just the Bowl Championship Series itself: Champions of non-automatic-qualifying conferences simply get the short end of the stick. This is the problem the Texas Christian Horned Frogs will have to deal with when they head to the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.

The reality that has to gnaw at the insides of TCU head coach Gary Patterson as his team prepares to face the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs is this: The Horned Frogs won their third straight Mountain West Conference championship in 2011, only to be relegated to a pre-Christmas bowl game with little stature or value. TCU’s conference championship – won on the road at Boise State in a 36-35 thriller – did not lift the Frogs to the BCS once Houston fumbled away its Sugar Bowl shot with a horrid loss in the Conference USA Championship Game this past Saturday. West Virginia and Clemson are part of the power-conference club. Their three losses this past season didn’t matter, because they are both headed to the Orange Bowl. TCU’s two losses, as a conference champion, somehow mattered more, and it’s that reality which must make Patterson a very grumpy man at this point in time. TCU finished 10-2 and defended its conference title. Clemson and West Virginia both went 9-3 but will play in a high-payout BCS contest with far more national television exposure.

The other unsettling aspect of this game for Patterson and the TCU community is that the Frogs won’t play a power-conference team. TCU would be happy to, at the very least, get a shot at South Carolina or Michigan State or some other school with an attractive national profile. Instead, TCU is being forced to play one of its fellow schools from the non-automatic-qualifying conferences. College basketball has introduced the expression “mid-on-mid violence,” a shorthand way of referring to the pairing of mid-major teams like George Mason and Butler in the NCAA Tournament as a way to eliminate the little guy from the postseason. Similarly, this matchup in San Diego is an example of “non-AQ-on-non-AQ violence,” since it forces two teams from the same socioeconomic class to meet each other.

Louisiana Tech, the champion of the WAC, has produced a sensational season under coach Sonny Dykes, who was just named the 2011 WAC Coach of the Year. One can’t say enough good things about the Bulldogs’ body of work in 2011, particularly their ability to overcome tough losses (35-34 to Houston after leading 34-7; falling to Mississippi State, 26-20, in overtime) with uncommon resilience. None of this is Tech’s fault, by any stretch; this is entirely a commentary on a bowl system which does not give TCU or Boise State a worthy consolation prize when a Sugar Bowl opportunity is taken away. TCU, the defending Rose Bowl champion, has given enough to the sport of college football to expect better treatment than this. Louisiana Tech is happy to play a big-time team such as TCU, but it’s hard to think that TCU feels the same way about its foe from Ruston, Louisiana. This matchup offers an illustration of what’s wrong with the current college football bowl system.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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